Years ago when my youngest daughter was in high school she decided to go on a diet of “no processed foods.” It was one of the busiest weeks of my life! In an effort to support her I was baking bread, cutting up fruits and vegetables and even tried my hand at making crackers. Yikes!
Luckily for me the phase only lasted about a week but it was a good reminder to me that a healthy diet is a diet rich with real food—food your grandma would recognize, food without a long list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce.
Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and non-homogenized dairy products. Originally all human food was whole food
Diets rich in whole and unrefined foods, like whole grains, dark green and yellow/orange-fleshed vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, contain high concentrations of antioxidant phenolics, fibers and numerous other phytochemicals that may be protective against chronic diseases. "A diet rich in a variety of whole foods have been recognized as possibly anti-cancer due to the synergistic effects of antioxidants and phytochemicals common is whole foods.
A focus on whole foods offers three main benefits: they provide greater nutrition for being a source of more complex micronutrients, they provide essential dietary fiber and they provide naturally occurring protective substances, such as phytochemicals.
You may be staying within your daily calorie allowance and even getting in your 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables but you may still be relying too much on highly processed foods.
In general foods with really long shelf lives are the most highly processed foods. You have to wonder about the freshness and nutritive value of something with an expiration date 18 months from today! Yikes!
I love Michael Pollan’s (I LOVE his book Food Rules) reminder that fried foods, pastries and even soda are treats and should be very occasional treats. He goes on to share that potatoes became America’s favorite vegetable only when the food industry did all the work of peeling, cutting and frying the potatoes—and cleaning up the mess. His theory is that if the only time we ate French fries was when we made them from scratch ourselves they would be the occasional treat they were intended to be. He purports that the same is true of fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies and ice cream. He advises to enjoy these treats as often as you are willing to prepare them yourself from scratch and he guesses that will not be daily.
By now I’m sure you are worrying about what our weekly challenge is going to be and this is it:
1. If you want the big challenge eat only pure whole foods this week supplemented by home made foods (bread, crackers, ice-cream, protein bars etc.) you have made from scratch.
2. If you are not up for that you can also earn the 5 daily bonus points if you set aside one meal a day that you eat ONLY whole foods. That’s right if you want a poached egg on toast you made the bread. If you want a garden salad with grilled chicken you grilled the chicken and made the salad dressing from wholesome ingredients. And while there are easy options (a smoothie made out of whole fruits and vegetables, scrambled eggs with fresh herbs and veggies etc.) I want you to notice and be mindful of what whole, fresh, healthy foods taste like so that you will make them a bigger part of your daily diet.